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Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

August 9, 2000


Online pharmacies shipped dangerous drugs and controlled substances merely on the basis of an "online consultation"

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn today filed lawsuits against online pharmacy web sites, and These web sites misled consumers and threatened their health by selling dangerous drugs and controlled substances over the Internet on the basis of an "online consultation."

"To just click and ship prescription drugs is bad medicine. These unlawful businesses mislead consumers about the safety of these drugs and put consumers' health at risk," said Attorney General Cornyn. "Online pharmacies offer tremendous convenience and freedom for homebound patients, rural Texans and others, but like any business, they must operate in compliance with the law."

Investigators from the Attorney General's office first uncovered these misleading practices last month in an undercover operation. A 40-year-old female investigator created an online identity of a 53-year-old man and purchased Viagra and Phentermine from these web sites with no prescription or consultation with a doctor. The companies sell Viagra, Phentermine, Propecia, Xenical and other popular prescription medications directly to Texas consumers. These drugs as well as others offered by the web sites are listed as dangerous drugs or controlled substances by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

These drugs should not be prescribed to people with certain serious health conditions. For example, Viagra may cause complications if prescribed for men with a heart condition. According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), 128 men have died from complications due to Viagra. Phentermine, an appetite suppressant, is a habit forming drug to which patients can become physically and psychologically dependent. It should not be taken by persons with heart disease, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, glaucoma or a history of drug or alcohol abuse. Nevertheless, the investigator was able to obtain these drugs without ever speaking to a doctor.

These interactive web sites advertise, sell and arrange to ship or deliver these drugs directly to Texas consumers. Consumers who access the web sites can obtain prescription medications by simply:

  • Filling out an online form which asks for personal information and credit card billing information;
  • Choosing the type of medication and dosage requested; and
  • Providing very limited medical information.

Consumers who follow those three steps have been able to receive prescription drugs without ever having spoken to a physician, without any physical examination, or appropriate diagnostic and laboratory testing and without any discussion of the risks and benefits of the medication.

These web sites mislead consumers by representing that an online evaluation is sufficient to allow a doctor to prescribe dangerous drugs or controlled substances. In fact,, represents to prospective customers that an in-person consultation with a physician is not "any more relevant than an online consultation."

The lawsuits were filed in Travis County District Court against these out-of-state companies and related pharmacies that operate on the internet. The Attorney General's lawsuits seek to halt these deceptive sales through an injunction to prevent the defendants from advertising, selling, prescribing and dispensing prescription medications to Texas consumers without proper safeguards to protect the health of the consumers. Attorney General Cornyn also seeks costs and civil penalties for violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

The FDA and the Attorney General's office offer tips for consumers who would like to use online pharmacies.

  • Check with the Texas State Board of Pharmacy to determine if the site is a licensed pharmacy in good standing.
  • Don't buy from sites that offer to prescribe a prescription drug for the first time without a physical exam, sell a prescription drug without a prescription, or sell drugs not approved by FDA.
  • Don't do business with sites that do not provide access to a registered pharmacist to answer questions.
  • Beware of sites that advertise a "new cure" for a serious disorder or a quick cure-all for a wide range of ailments.
  • Avoid sites that include undocumented case histories claiming "amazing" results.
  • Talk to your health-care professional before using any medication for the first time.


If you have a complaint or would like to find out more about an online business, call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection hotline at 1-800-252-8011 or file a complaint online at

Please click here if you would like to download a sound clip of the Attorney General
regarding this topic. (Approx. 1.4 Meg)

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Contact Mark Heckmann, Heather Browne, or Tom Kelley at (512) 463-2050
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